Canada v England Saxons, Churchill Cup Final, May 19
Saxons out to wreck Canada's dream
June 17, 2010
Stephen Myler starts at fly-half for the Saxons © Getty Images
England Saxons take on Canada in New Jersey on Saturday night in pursuit of their fifth Churchill Cup title.
Standing in their way are a Canadian side contesting their first final, having knocked out a strong France 'A' side 33-27 in the final round of group games.
The Saxons' progress was equally smooth, with bonus-point victories over the USA and Russia securing their passage. Last season saw Ireland 'A' upset the apple cart by thrashing the Saxons in the final and there will be plenty of motivation for Stuart Lancaster's young side.
Northampton's Stephen Myler and Saracens' Alex Goode have shared the playmaking duties for the Saxons in the USA and both start the final. Goode moves back to fullback, where he has impressed this season in Sarries' march to the Guinness Premiership final, leaving Myler to orchestrate prodceedings from the No.10 jersey.
Goode's switch means a start on the wing for Nick Abendanon, with Gloucester's James Simpson-Daniel completing the back-three.
Lancaster has selected a combative pack for the game, with Canada sure to bring their usual rugged approach to the fixture. Wasps lock George Skivington will skipper the side while there will be plenty of pace and power in the back-row where the impressive Andy Saull is joined by Tom Wood of Worcester and Gloucester's Luke Narraway.
"We are all looking forward to the final on Saturday and we are expecting a tough challenge from Canada," Lancaster said. "They deserved their win over France 'A' and proved that not only are they well coached but have players in key positions that are a real threat.
"We have sat down and looked at our performance against USA and looked at areas we can improve. The move from Denver to New York has been smooth so we have managed to get in a couple of sessions to work on these areas. Selection has been difficult, for the right reasons, the players have had a fantastic attitude throughout our three weeks and there were some tight calls. We also realise that the replacements will play a key role and that has been in our thoughts. It has been a long season for all the players but they are looking forward to one last effort in the final."
The Canadian effort will be spearheaded by their pack, who put in a serious shift against the French. Hooker Pat Riordan leads an unchanged side from a front-row also containing Doug Wooldridge and Andrew Tiedemann. In the backs, recent Newport-Gwent Dragons signing Matt Evans starts at fullback while pacy Glasgow Warriors utility DTH van der Merwe starts at outside-centre.
"I am going out to win a game of rugby, and if that happens to provide a championship as a result, that is great," skipper Riordan said. "I am pretty sure no guy on this team is taking a different approach. We have been working hard at providing an environment to succeed and I think that is starting to provide us the performances we know we are capable of having."
Canada: M Evans (Newport Gwent Dragons); C Hearn (The Rock), DTH van der Merwe (Glasgow Warriors), P Mackenzie (Esher), J Mensah-Coker (un-attached); A Monro (Ontario Blues), S White (BC Bears), D Wooldridge (Ontario Blues), P Riordan (BC Bears, capt), A Tiedemann (Prairie Wolf Pack), L Tait (Un-attached), B Erichsen (BC Bears), C O'Toole (The Rock), A Kleeberger (Rotherham), A Carpenter (Un-attached)
Replacements: R Hamilton (BC Bears), J Marshall (BC Bears), T Hotson (Plymouth Albion), N Dala (Prairie Wolf Pack), E Wilson (BC Bears), R Smith (Praire Wolf Pack), J Pritchard (Bedford RFC)
England Saxons: A Goode (Saracens); J Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), J Clarke (Northampton Saints), A Allen (Leicester Tigers) , N Abendanon (Bath); S Myler (Northampton Saints), L Dickson (Northampton Saints); N Wood (Gloucester), A Titterrell (Leeds Carnegie) , A Corbiserio (London Irish), J Hudson (Newcastle Falcons), G Skivington (London Wasps, capt), T Wood (Worcester Warriors), A Saull (Saracens), L Narraway (Gloucester Rugby)
Replacements: R Vickers (Newcastle Falcons), D Bell (Bath), G Kitchener (Worcester Warriors), K Myall (Leeds Carnegie), M Young (Newcastle Falcons), O Smith (Harlequins), T Varndell (London Wasps)